‘We are ready for this’: Area leaders, public health officials respond to confirmed coronavirus case in Dane County

Press Conference

MADISON, Wis. – After learning the patient with Wisconsin’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus lives in Dane County, area leaders and public health officials are emphasizing the risk of contracting the virus is slim for residents.

That doesn’t mean officials haven’t prepared. Public Health Madison and Dane County joined Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi to discuss the precautionary plans they’ve put in place over the past few weeks and how they’re implementing them now that a case is confirmed.

“We want to emphasize today in Dane County that a person’s chances of getting sick remains very low,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We are ready for this. Our public health staff plan and train and practice for novel viruses like this and they are prepared.”

Rhodes-Conway said officials initiated an incident command structure with about 50 people trained and ready to respond to the virus.

As a part of that response, Public Health Madison and Dane County’s responsibilities include monitoring travelers who have been to China after Feb. 2 for symptoms, ensuring isolation of patients awaiting test results, supplying patients with items they need while self-quarantined and following up with anyone in close contact with a person who has the coronavirus.

“Given what we’ve seen in other parts of the globe, this is likely not the last case in the region,” Parisi said.

Public health officials said the patient who has coronavirus arrived back in Wisconsin after traveling to China prior to screening criteria from the federal government, but did everything correctly to prevent the spread of the virus, immediately going to University Hospital upon returning.

They said they couldn’t release details about the patient, other than that they are an adult living in Dane County who is now “doing OK” and will be able to leave their home once the coronavirus is gone.

Rhodes-Conway asked residents to be aware of implicit racial bias.

“You can’t tell if someone has a risk of spreading the coronavirus by what they look like,” she said. “This public health concern will not be solved with fear and discrimination. We will fight with passion and science.”

Public Health has created a hotline to provide updates on the coronavirus at 608-243-0587. The agency will be updating its website and social media pages with new information, as well.